Many of the physiologic consequences that we attribute to aging can be reverse with fitness training. As an aging adult myself, I want to share some fitness training measures you can take to help counteract the effects of aging.
Strength Training Becomes More Important For Older Adults
One of the more crippling effects of older adults is the gradual loss of muscle mass, and the loss of strength that it entails. The loss of overall muscle mass and muscle strength causes joints to bear greater stress during exercise. This extra stress to the joints commonly leads to athletic injuries such as tendonitis, ligament sprains, musculo-tendinous strains, as well as arthritis. Older adults involved in sports that don’t require tremendous strength are particularly susceptible as they tend to try to get by without resistance training. When you’re young, very often you can get away with it, but the older you get, the more important strength training becomes.
Older Adults Should Include Flexibility Exercises
Loss of flexibility is a natural effect of aging among older adults that can be counteracted through a program of daily stretching. Among older adults any repetitive movements involved in any sport that started from a younger age results in muscular imbalances that gets progressively more extreme. These require targeted flexibility efforts to loosen and lengthen only those muscles that have become short and tight. Stretching all muscles equally will only take the imbalance to a higher level.
Older Adults Need to Train More Efficiently
Believe it or not, there are actually advantages to getting older, even for athletes. One of these advantages is accumulated knowledge of one’s own body, particularly as it reacts to various types of training. The more experience you have in exercising the better able you become to determine which exercises, drills, workouts and training patterns work best for you and which ones don’t. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Design an exercise program that minimizes the less useful workouts and maximizes the workouts that gives you the greatest performance.
Aging Adults Need to Warm-up Well
As older adults age, their aging process causes the cardiovascular and muscular system to respond slower to the demands of exercise. Older adults should extend their warm up time to include a slow gradual increase in intensity.
Older Adults Should Rest and Recover More
Unless older adults continue to perform training sessions that match the intensity of workouts they performed when younger, older adults cannot hope to perform near the level at which they were able to in their mid-20's or 30’s. While many older adults find that they can continue to perform these tough workouts well into their 40's, they cannot do them as often. Older adults need additional time off for recovery, as older adults age they find that the ‘off days' equally as important as the training days.
Older Adults Need to Practice Nutritional Recovery
Clinical research has shown that consuming the right nutrients in the right amounts immediately after exercise can enhance recovery substantially in older adults. Water, electrolytes, carbohydrate, and protein are needed most to rehydrate the body, restore muscle glycogen, and repair tissue damage.
Older Adults Need to Pump Those Antioxidants
Free-radical damage is now known to be one of the primary components of aging. For this reason, older adults need to be especially vigilant in consuming antioxidants that protect against and repair such damage. Vitamins C and E are especially helpful for older adults as controlled studies have shown. Vitamins C and E can dramatically reduce post-workout muscle soreness in the short term and minimizing long-term oxidative stress.
Older Adults Need More Sleep
Another thing that many older adults try to get by without is sleep. In fact, chronic sleep deprivation is an epidemic with Americans at any age. Researchers have shown that sleeping too little leads to a host of problems from depressed immune function to decreased mental functioning. Skimping on sleep is also harmful to overall performance. During sleep the body secretes human growth hormone (HGH), a powerful agent of exercise recovery. Less sleep means less HGH and therefore less freshness for the next day’s workout. Have an extra half-hour or hour of sleep each night and you’ll feel 10 years younger.
Bottom Line on Older Adults and Exercise
There is no question that older adults are more prone than younger adults to a range of exercise related injuries. However, this is no reason for older adults to avoid physical activity. Most exercise related injuries can be prevented or treated with a combination of preparation, targeted exercise and conditioning, and common sense. Most studies suggest that active enjoyment of a variety of sports and exercise can give older adults both a better and a longer life.
About the Author Lynn Glenn